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Air Power Australia
Air Power Australia


Rebuilding the Warrior Ethos

27th December 2008


APA is pleased to release its final paper in the 2008 APA Analyses journal series, entitled "Rebuilding the Warrior Ethos". This extensive 16,000 word monograph by AIRCDRE Ted Bushell deals comprehensively with the breakdown of the traditional military ethos in Australia and other Western nations, and explores historical background and current status. A range of critical remedial measures are proposed.

Media: AIRCDRE Bushell is available for comment.

Executive Summary

Since the defence reorganisation, Australia has witnessed an increasing stream of reviews and criticism from the media and the dwindling number of those who have a professional grasp of the Services and their needs, but to no avail. Even blunt criticism from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence has failed to produce needed change.

The Military Justice System, which was not, pre-reform, a significant problem area, has been reviewed several times, but without improvement. Despite statements that all is well, there still remain a number of quite justifiable complaints that have been locked up in the Defence/DMO Legal Offices for a decade or more. As with other reviews, the results have been either nil, or simply an increase in the bureaucracy and its functions. They have all failed to recognise that the Defence organisation exists to support Australia’s defence forces, not to diminish them.

There have been continued reports of DMO’s failures in the management of system procurement and support as well as its associated contracting practices, which have cost the tax payer some billions of dollars and left the military without needed capabilities.

The result has been to drive a wedge between the people of Australia and their leaders. Where harmony should exist, there is now a feeling of distrust and of being let down. This has inevitably spilt over to weaken the feeling of trust and confidence that the Australian people had traditionally in the leadership of their military forces.

Australia’s military, once clearly apolitical, is now effectively under the command and leadership of a Diarchy, which is simply the front office of an instrument of centralised Public Service power over both the Military and Government.

In short, the moral influence that is critical to military success has been weakened and this process will continue so long as the current higher Defence organisation exists. The military virtue of Australia’s military forces has been compromised by bureaucratic interference and repeated government failures to exercise proper governance. The path ahead for Australia has already been trodden by other Western nations, with results that should not be ignored.

The Australian Defence Organisation is now in disarray. Strict functions for all with clear channels of direction and accountability, so as to ensure that all parts act as a whole, are not a feature of the organisation. We have now a dysfunctional maze of interfacing and overlapping organisational, functional, administrative, and financial fiefdoms that will most surely fail under pressure. Our armament is neither appropriate nor superior. Our knowledge of ourselves and others is poor and our intelligence equally poor. Our procurement and support systems are as dysfunctional as our Defence organisation.

Without considerable reform, and the abandonment of the ‘Tange solution’, Australia can look forward only to more of what has developed over the past 10 years or so – essentially a burgeoning bureaucracy, a hollow military deficient in the professional mastery of core skills and lacking in robust morale, ethos, and ethics, and governments unwilling or unable to reassert control.

1. War and the State
1. How to Settle a Dispute
2. The Best Wars
3. Factors in Warfare
2. Core Military Characteristics
1. Military Ethos
3. The World Experience with Change
1. The US Experience
2. The Goldwater-Nichols Act
3. The UK Experience
4. The Canadian Experience
5. The Australian Experience with Change (With particular reference to the RAAF)
6. The RAN
7. The RAAF
4. The Military/Bureaucratic Interface
5. The Diarchy, Management, and Leadership
1. Performance of the Diarchy
6. The Management of Mistakes
7. Service Recruitment and Retention Problems
8. Conclusions
9. Annex A The RAAF – Capabilities Lost That Must Be Regained
1. A Benchmark for Defence/DAO
2. Defence/DMO Performance
3. The Way Ahead


Dr Carlo Kopp, MIEEE, SMAIAA, PEng
Defence Analyst and Consulting Engineer
Editor: Air Power Australia @ http://www.ausairpower.net